A comparison of the effectiveness of EFL students’ use of dictionaries and an online corpus for the enhancement of revision skills

Dictionary-post2Blog post written by Natalia Jacobsen and Charles Mueller based on an article in the journal ReCALL

The use of corpora for second language learning and teaching has been gaining increasing popularity in recent decades. Previous research has documented a number of contexts in which corpora can be used successfully for correction of grammar and lexical errors. On a related note, corpora were identified as particularly useful for helping advanced learners understand and acquire appropriate patterns of idiomatic and phraseological usage. However, many studies investigating the applications of corpora to L2 contexts were largely qualitative and restricted to one proficiency level – namely, the advanced L2 learner.

Despite positive evidence for advanced learners, the use of corpora among learners with lower proficiency has been not sufficiently studied. The current study aimed to address this gap in an EFL context, with a particular focus on feasibility and effectiveness of using corpus methods for learners with lower proficiency.

The study took place in the context of a Japanese university, with all subjects being Japanese L1 speakers. The results reported here represent summative findings from two experiments. The first experiment investigated learners’ impressions while using COCA for revising essays. The second experiment focused on the usefulness of corpus tools for completing fill-in-the-gap vocabulary tests: specifically, it measured whether corpus tools would be more effective for helping learners achieve greater accuracy than electronic dictionaries.

The combined results demonstrated that subjects faced a significant learning curve when trying to understand how an online corpus works; however, despite such difficulty and the lower proficiency levels, the second experiment demonstrated that the corpus tools were still more effective for learners than the online dictionary. Corpora were particularly useful for correcting errors in light verbs collocating with nouns and in prepositions collocating with nouns or verbs.

The study discusses the findings in the context of existing research, explores implications, and puts forth several pedagogical recommendations for using corpus tools in ESL and EFL classrooms.

Read the full article ‘A comparison of the effectiveness of EFL students’ use of dictionaries and an online corpus for the enhancement of revision skills’ here


Mobile technology in second language classrooms: Insights into its uses, pedagogical implications, and teacher beliefs

stock-photo-touch-screen-tablet-computer-group-of-students-in-library-62987941Blog post written by Benjamin Van Praag based on an article in the journal ReCALL

The use of mobile technology is becoming more and more prevalent, almost ubiquitous, in our everyday lives with devices such as mobile phones pervading every aspect of our daily routines and becoming as much part of the language classroom as pens, paper and course books. Adopting a multiple-case, multiple-method design, including background interviews, classroom observation and video-based stimulated recall interviews, the authors of this article explored mobile technology usage in second language classrooms.

The study investigated the practices of three experienced second language teachers in a UK-based language institute in classes of multilingual and multicultural adult learners. The findings, based on analysis of the participants’ rationales, stated beliefs and classroom actions, show that the teachers had a tendency to prohibit or reluctantly tolerate the use of mobile devices in their classrooms. At the same time, the teachers recognised some of the potential benefits of mobile devices that were able to support their teaching and assist students in their learning endevours. They also highlighted the incentives and barriers that respectively facilitated or hindered the integration of mobile technology into second language classrooms. These incentives and barriers included those that were internal (e.g. beliefs) and external (e.g. contextual constraints) to the teachers. Implications for the inclusion of mobile devices in classroom practice and teacher education and training are drawn from the study.

Read the full article ‘Mobile technology in second language classrooms: Insights into its uses, pedagogical implications, and teacher beliefs’ here 

Research trends in mobile assisted language learning from 2000 to 2012

REC Blog May 15Blog post written by Guler Duman based on an article in the latest issue of ReCALL

The widespread ownership of sophisticated but affordable mobile technologies has extended opportunities for making language teaching and learning available beyond the traditional classroom. Researchers have therefore begun to investigate new uses for various mobile technologies to facilitate language learning. It is not surprising, then, that a growing body of research into using these technologies for language learning has been documented over the past several decades, making mobile assisted language learning (MALL) an emerging research field. We believe that a comprehensive analysis of MALL-related literature is necessary for those interested in MALL research tounderstand current practices and to direct future research in the field.

In order to trace how MALL has evolved in recent years and show
to what extent mobile devices are being used to support language learning, in this article, we analysed the MALL studies published from 2000 to 2012 with regard to the distribution of research topics and theoretical bases, the variety of mobile devices supported by the many mobile platforms and functions, and the diversity of methodological approaches.

A systematic and extensive review of MALL-related literature revealed that research in the field increased at a fast pace from 2008 and reached a peak in 2012. Teaching vocabulary with the use of cell phones and PDAs remained popular over this period. The writing process and grammar
acquisition tended to be neglected in the MALL studies. Furthermore, the need for solid theoretical bases helping to establish a link between theory and practice emerged since a significant number of studies did not base their research on any theoretical framework. MALL research also remained limited by its methodological approaches. Applied and design-based research dominated the field, and these studies generally adopted quantitative research methods.

Ultimately, this study provides an important reference base for future research in the field of MALL with the identification of the most widely examined areas and issues.

Read the full article ‘Research trends in mobile assisted language learning from 2000 to 2012’ here.

Co-editor Françoise Blin reflects on the changes at ReCALL

REC 2015Co-editor Françoise Blin reflects on the changes at ReCALL during 2014. As the last issue of 2014 goes to Press, long-serving Editor June Thompson prepares to retire. June has tirelessly managed submissions and reviews, edited and copy-edited issues of the journal. In particular, ReCALL authors have greatly benefited from her careful editing. We wish her well with all her future plans.

With receipt of an average of 100 submissions per year, ReCALL now benefits from the services of two Editors (Blin and Alex Boulton), journal administrator Sylvie Thouësny, and an online submission system. The pool of reviewers is also steadily increasing. Blind peer-reviewing is a time consuming activity that usually remains invisible, yet is a fundamental principle governing scientific publication today. Reviewers play an essential role in ensuring that ReCALL remains one of the top CALL journals, as evidenced by our latest Impact Factor and ranking in Scopus. Warmest thanks to all of you!

This latest issue comprises five regular papers and one selected paper from the EUROCALL 2013 conference held in Évora, Portugal. Jack Burston provides a critical analysis of published MALL studies. David Neville then reports on a mixed-methods study that evaluates the use of such an environment designed to teach German two-way prepositions and specialised vocabulary in the area of recycling and waste management systems.

Continuing with digital game-based learning, Hayo Reinders and Sorada Wattana investigate students’ experience in the context of a game-based learning programme at a Thai university and focus more particularly on the impact of gameplay on their willingness to communicate in English.

The next two articles report on the development and evaluation of systems developed by the authors with a view to enhancing EFL learners’ pronunciation and listening comprehension skills respectively. Hiroshi Kibishi, Kuniaki Hirabayashi, and Seiichi Nakagawa propose a statistical method for estimating the pronunciation and intelligibility scores of Japanese speakers of English, using an online real-time score estimation system developed by the authors.

Ching-Kun Hsu reports on the development and evaluation of an adaptive video caption filtering system for mobile devices designed to support the development of listening skills in EFL among Taiwanese learners, with a particular focus on learning motivation, satisfaction, and enjoyment.

Finally, Fiona Farr and Elaine Riordan expand on their presentation at the EUROCALL 2013 conference. The authors examine communication technologies in terms of their suitability and affordances as reflective media in a language teacher education context.

Access the entire issue here

In her last Editorial June talks about her work on ReCALL and the community more widely

Volume 26 of ReCALL marks the retirement of Editor June Thompson. Although I have only been lucky enough to work with her for the last three years her hard work and commitment to the journal is evident and a testimony to her work is the health of the journal.

2014-06-17 09_15_31-Edit Post ‹ Cambridge Extra at LINGUIST List — WordPressBlog post written by June Thompson

As this is my last opportunity to write an editorial in ReCALL, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on the journal’s progress over the past seven years and outline its current position. In ReCALL Volume 18 (2) in November 2006 I reported on ReCALL’s early beginnings at the CTI Centre for Modern Languages at the University of Hull in 1990, its relationship with EUROCALL and eventually with Cambridge University Press.

Highlights from the last seven years include:

ReCALL has continued to be published three times a year, with a steady increase in circulation

– Publication of five special issues involving guest editors

– Increasing number of submissions from around the world

– After starting to publish ReCALL online as well as in print, Cambridge University Press digitized all previous issues

– Another recent innovation, FirstView means that completed articles are published online well in advance of the printed issue, thus speeding up the process from submission to publication

ReCALL achieved its first impact factor in in 2012 which improved in 2013 with the journal now ranked 29/160 in the Linguistics category

The next chapter in ReCALL’s history is a change in editorial arrangements. Last year I decided the time had come for me to step down and hand over my part of the responsibility as smoothly as possible. To that end, Alex Boulton was appointed as co-editor, along with myself and Françoise Blin, and ReCALL will soon be accepting submissions via the ScholarOne system.

For me, the best part of working on ReCALL has been the contact with such a wide range of interesting, educated and helpful colleagues: authors, reviewers, guest editors, staff at Cambridge University Press, and many long-standing EUROCALL friends. I feel very privileged to have had the support of so many people in helping to create, from scratch, a journal of which I think we can all be proud.

Read the full Editorial in the latest issue of ReCALL here 

All at Cambridge and those involved in ReCALL want to place on record our thanks to June and wish her the best of luck in her retirement.

ReCALL Special Issue on Researching New Uses of Corpora for Language Teaching and Learning

REC-SI-March-2014Editors Pascual Pérez-Paredes and Alex Boulton discuss…

The use of language data in the analysis of language and communication has become commonplace, due in part to the increasing range of software tools and functions, as well as to the fact that linguists today are more sensitive to data-driven research methods that have become standard in other disciplines. In particular, corpus linguistics has revolutionised different fields of language study by bringing in data (aka corpora) to language description. Although the 1980s introduced large corpora designed to be representative of the ‘standard’ language written and spoken at the time, applied linguists and language teachers were quick to recognize the huge pedagogic potential behind them. This special issue of ReCALL promotes research into different ways in which corpora can be used by language teachers and learners directly in what has come to be known as ‘data-driven learning’ (DDL), as opposed to mediated by specialists for purposes of language analysis and description.

In English, for example, when is enter followed by into? Can moreover be used in less formal registers? Does blond(e) have the same collocates as its cognate in various other languages (e.g. beer or tobacco)? Is youths simply a synonym for young people? Is therefore mainly used in sentence-initial or mid-sentence position in academic writing? What kind of things do we end up doing? Are there differences in meaning or use between widely, largely and broadly? My student wrote the last several years, but this sounds odd to a British teacher – why? Why did my teacher underline an important number as wrong in my essay? Corpora contain the data necessary to pursue all sorts of queries such as these, most commonly in the form of frequency lists, clusters, words in context (concordances), collocates and colligates, distributions, and so on. Large corpora can be accessed on line in many different languages, and software exists to help create and query specialised corpora for specific needs.

An on-going question is whether and in what conditions this presents any substantial advantage over other learning methodologies, and whether it makes sense to promote corpus use for specific learners with particular needs in a given context, and for a variety of different purposes. This special issue of ReCALL has sought to gather both qualitative and quantitative empirical studies investigating various aspects of corpus use in language teaching and learning. Such research is essential to afford further insight into both the possibilities and limitations of using language corpora for different purposes, whether in mainstream practice among ‘ordinary’ teachers and learners, or for more innovative or specialised uses.

Among other questions we might ask: Can a DDL approach be appropriate for younger or less advanced learners? Can corpora be used deductively as well as inductively, and in teacher-mediated materials on paper as well as for direct consultation via a concordancer? How does corpus use compare to traditional methodologies, or to dictionary use for encoding and decoding? Can a corpus be useful both as a reference resource and as a learning tool? How exactly can learners use corpora to correct errors and improve their writing generally? Are corpora only useful for reading/writing, or can they help with listening/speaking as well? Can corpora be used beyond the level of individual words, from formulaic sequences to discourse? How do learners react to using corpora for different purposes and with varying degrees of autonomy? Can learners make use of corpora other than the large, on-line ones that are best known – including discipline-specific corpora, corpora they build themselves, or corpora including texts they produce themselves?

These and other issues are all addressed at various points in this special issue by specialists from around the world – in Europe, Asia and America – all practising language teachers as well as researchers. Though the contributors are keen not to ignore any difficulties they may encounter, the results are in all cases encouraging and point to a number of future avenues worthy of further exploration.

Enjoy access to the special issue of ReCALL here

Barriers to the adoption of ICT in teaching Chinese as a foreign language in US universities

Post written by Chun-Yu Lin, Chung-Kai Huang, and Chang-Hua Chen based on an article published in the latest issue of ReCALL

With the trend of globalization, the study of the Chinese language opens the way to different, important fields such as Chinese economy, history, politics, and archaeology. In the US’ higher education context, information and communication technology (ICT) is seen as a valuable add-on to the learning experience, and thereby many universities have developed Web-supported teaching and learning systems and technology-driven curriculum to address this issue. Emergent themes that serve as the driving force for integrating ICT into the Chinese language classroom are: increasing pedagogical flexibility and efficacy, improving learners’ core content knowledge and language skills, and preparing learners to use the future target language in academic or workplace domains. Nonetheless, the integration of ICT is not always an available or accepted part of the course design. To bridge the gap between ICT integration and curriculum and instruction, as well as to enhance the exchange on technology-based Chinese language teaching, this study investigated barriers to the adoption of ICT in teaching Chinese as a foreign language in US universities via a mixed method approach. More specifically, given the complexity of the research questions proposed, quantitative and qualitative data were both collected to provide a better understanding of existing problems of integration barriers than would have been revealed using either research approach alone.

Many Chinese language instructors are enthusiastic about applying ICT to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning, but many still feel unprepared to take advantage of ICT in their classrooms. This study reflected on the issues of ICT integration from a range of perspectives. The persistent barriers identified consist of availability and access to technology hardware and software, structured design of enacted curriculum, teachers’ technological and content knowledge, technical, administrative, and peer support, inadequate professional development, teacher beliefs, and demographic characteristics of teachers. Evidence of these barriers inhibits successful technology integration efforts and also inhibits the fulfillment of requirements of many technology initiative opportunities. To take immediate action for effecting change over the long term, suggested recommendations include: improving classroom access to ICT, bolstering technical support, strengthening professional development around the instructional uses of technology, and enlisting in-service teachers to advocate for technical support and funding. Ensuring that ICT will be an integral part of the teaching practices will help Chinese language teacher communities to benefit from the capabilities of technology and meanwhile create an environment that is conducive to the development of learning because it corresponds to actual Chinese language teaching contexts.

Read the entire article ‘Barriers to the adoption of ICT in teaching Chinese as a foreign language in US universities’ without charge until 30th June 2014

Language-related computer use: Focus on young L2 English learners in Sweden

Post written by Pia Sundqvist, Karlstad University and Liss Kerstin Sylvén (University of Gothenburg) based on an article in the latest issue of ReCALL

Our research addresses young learners of English as a second language (L2) in Sweden and their spare time use of computers for various language-related activities in English, Swedish, and other languages. For instance, they socialize with friends online via Facebook, play various types of digital games, listen to music, watch clips on YouTube, and so on. We use the term “extramural English” in reference to all sorts of spare time activities in English.

The main purpose of our study was to examine language-related use of computers in general, and engagement in playing digital games in particular. We collected data with the help of a questionnaire and a one-week language diary from 76 children in 4th grade (ages 10–11), and then we compared their computer use in English, Swedish, and other languages. Another purpose was to see whether there was a relation between playing digital games in English and (a) gender, (b) first language, (c) motivation for learning English, (d) self-assessed English ability, and (e) self-reported strategies for speaking English. In order to do so, the participants were divided into three “digital game groups”: (1) non-gamers, (2) moderate gamers, and (3) frequent gamers (≥ 4 hours/week). It was possible to divide the participants into these groups since we had access to diary data consisting of their self-reported times for “playing digital games in English”.

The results showed, among other things, that the 4th-graders in this study spent 7.2 hours per week on extramural English activities. In other words, in comparison with the time that is devoted to formal instruction of English in school, the time spent on English outside school is much greater. There was also a statistically significant difference between the boys and the girls, because the boys play more digital games and watch more films. On the other hand, the girls spent significantly more time on out-of-school language-related activities in Swedish than the boys, the reason being that the girls spent more time on Facebook. The examination of the three digital game groups revealed that there were mostly girls in the non-gamers group, there was a mix of girls and boys in the moderate group, and there were mostly boys in the frequent gamers group, which is in line with previous studies. Interestingly, participants with another first language than Swedish were overrepresented among the frequent gamers – a finding which calls for more research. As for the values for motivation and self-assessed English ability, we found that they were high across all groups. Finally, regarding the self-reported strategies, code-switching to one’s first language was more common among the non- and moderate gamers than the frequent gamers.

Access the entire article ‘Language-related computer use: Focus on young L2 English learners in Sweden’ without charge until 30th June 2014 

ReCALL special issue on digital games for language learning

ReCALL special issue Editors Steven L. Thorne, Frederik Cornillie and Piet Desmet explore the use and value of digital games for language learning.

Extending back to the earliest days of computing and the advent of public access to the internet, and over the past decade in particular, there has been an ever steepening trajectory of interest in play environments that take the form of online digital games. Catalyzed by advances in hardware and networking technologies, the maturation of digital games has been accompanied by an exponential growth in the number and diversity of players, has spawned complex and heterogeneous online communities and cultural practices, and increasingly, the use of gaming features and mechanics have been leveraged for educational purposes in what has been termed the serious games movement. In part because some genres of digital games are language intensive, applied linguists and language educators have begun exploring the use of commercial off-the-shelf digital game genres (primarily multiplayer games) for the purpose of learning or teaching a second or foreign language (L2), broadly referred to as digital game-based language learning (DGBLL).

This special issue was designed to advance knowledge in the area of DGBLL, with particular attention to two issues: (1) the recent emergence of digital gaming as a substantive and diverse context for intercultural expression; (2) the pedagogical shift that most current games illustrate, from models of learning based on information presentation and toward theories of human development that emphasize engaged problem solving, collaboration, and social interaction. Each contribution to this special issue focuses on various of these themes, introduces empirical data and analyses, and in some cases proposes innovative theoretical frameworks novel to CALL and SLA, all of which push forward our understanding of game-enabled processes and phenomena that obtain relevance to the project of designed settings for language development.

This special issue features six empirical studies that push forward our understanding of game-enabled processes and communicative phenomena that relate to the project of designed settings for language development. In the first contribution to this ReCALL special issue, Cornillie, Clarebout, and Desmet emphasize the need to consider participants’ perceptions in games designed for language learning purposes, with particular attention to language-focused corrective feedback. The authors present evidence from a mixed-method study which shows that learners have generally favourable perceptions of corrective feedback as a design element in an immersive role playing game. The next article, by Thorne, Fischer, and Lu, provides detailed linguistic complexity analyses of the English language version of the commercial massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) World of Warcraft (WoW) and its attendant online discourse communities and strategy/informational websites. Their research illustrates that the complex semiotic ecology of this popular game constitutes a linguistically and cognitively rich environment for language learners. The following paper, by Sylvén and Sundqvist, presents evidence that recreational gaming by young EFL learners is positively related to their L2 proficiency levels. They note the need for additional research in order to explore whether game playing itself, rather than other factors, might explain this relationship.

The final three contributions explore, and critically analyze, discourse-based and action oriented participation in L2 MMOG settings. Rama, Black, van Es, and Warschauer contrast the experiences of an expert gamer but beginning learner of L2 Spanish with those of an advanced Spanish language learner who is a novice gamer. Through analyses of journal excerpts and chat logs, among other qualitative data, the authors show that players’ engagement in the collaborative space of WoW provides numerous affordances for L2 learning. The contribution by Zheng, Newgarden, and Young opens by introducing a distributed language and values-realizing framework as the theoretical foundation for a multimodal analysis of EFL learners’ game play in WoW.  They document, among other things, communicative activities unlikely to be encountered in L2 classrooms, as well as a co-occurrence of killing actions and caring for other players that constitute quotidian forms of play in this setting. In the article that concludes this special issue, Peterson analyzes the discourse of Japanese learners of EFL in a manga-styled MMOG and documents interactional features that have been associated with the development of sociocultural competence.

This special issue will be of particular relevance to linguists, applied linguists, Internet Studies researchers, educational technologists, language educators aspiring to use games in instructed L2 contexts, and scholars with an interest in game studies.

Access the entire special issue here, without charge until 30th April 2013